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For Better or Worse: Coverage Considerations for Backyard Weddings

Many couples are considering small, at-home weddings these days that may limit the risk related to COVID-19. Here are three areas agents should discuss with clients before the event.

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for better or worse: coverage considerations for backyard weddings

The coronavirus continues to disrupt many facets of daily life including school, vacations and shopping. The pandemic's logistical impact hasn't spared anyone, including those who are looking to celebrate one of the biggest days of their life: their wedding day.

The vast majority—95%—of engaged couples with spring 2020 weddings decided to postpone or reschedule their wedding, according to The Knot. But love can't wait for some. Many couples are opting to move forward, and are choosing backyard weddings at home as a more intimate, safer alternative to halls, hotels and other popular venues.

While small, at-home weddings may limit the risk related to COVID-19, they increase the risk of a home mishap. Commercial venues and traditional wedding vendors carry significant liability coverage and event planners sell policies that cover damage or cancellation. But your client may not have that safety net. The homeowner retains all the risk if something goes wrong.

Agents can play an important role in helping their clients and prospects understand and be protected against such risks. When reviewing policies, agents should inquire about any such events—weddings, parties or otherwise—being held on their property and discuss what their home insurance policy may or may not cover.

The good news for couples and their families amid such a stressful time is that they may be pleasantly surprised by the protection offered by their existing home insurance policy. For those that want more protection, agents can also propose special event riders and standalone policies to boost their existing liability insurance and protection from cancellations.

For agents working with clients while they plan for a backyard wedding, here are three considerations for backyard nuptials that agents should discuss with their clients:

1) Wedding day woes. Homeowners insurance typically covers the common, but unfortunate, incidents that one may expect at any wedding, regardless of venue. For example, home insurance covers any casualties related to gifts—whether a neighborhood wedding crasher steals a gift or one melts by a fire pit.

Injuries are also not uncommon at weddings. In the event of an injury—for example, a guest is injured on a wet dance floor or slips on their way out the door—the homeowner's personal liability coverage will cover legal and medical bills.

However, in an instance where the homeowner does not have liability coverage and also does not show “reasonable care," meaning they don't show a degree of caution and concern for the safety of others, then the homeowner can be held negligent and therefore liable for the injury.

For homeowners who are planning to host a wedding, home insurance agents should advise them to make sure they have the proper personal liability coverage in the event of any injuries.

2) Alcohol-fueled accidents. With weddings typically comes alcohol consumption, and with alcohol consumption comes an increased risk for accidents to happen.

Traditional wedding venues have liquor liability coverage to protect against any drunken mishaps. However, many homeowners don't have this protection within their home insurance policy. If a wedding guest gets in a drunk-driving accident after leaving the party, the host can be held liable for injuries to third parties, car passengers, and any damages resulting from the accident and subsequent claims and lawsuits.

While standard home insurance policies can cover some liquor liability, the coverage is severely limited and not designed to cover the full exposure of an event as large as a wedding. If liquor will be served at an at-home wedding, insurance agents should recommend clients add a liquor liability policy to cover any drunken accidents.

3) Cooking calamities. While there are many ways to feed guests, hosts will often opt to prepare and serve food right out of their kitchen. But homeowners beware! Home cooking can pose a major risk—cooking is the leading cause of home structure fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

While fire damage due to cooking is covered by home insurance, agents should consider recommending additional liability coverage to protect homeowners from financial loss through add-on riders. Agents should also consider recommending secondary policies, like an umbrella policy, to provide supplemental protection beyond existing insurance limits. A cooking catastrophe should not taint the newlyweds' perfect day.

Insurance agents should play out all scenarios that could impede a backyard wedding and discuss what is and is not covered by an existing home insurance policy. The best home insurance providers make it easy and efficient to add umbrella coverage to an existing insurance policy. This protection can also help with future potential risks after the wedding, like a second backyard wedding, a new pool or a boat.

Bill Martin is president and chief executive of Plymouth Rock Home Assurance.

Thursday, September 17, 2020
Personal Lines